Walking in sunshine

Today has been a beautiful day after so many days of rain and nasty coughs. Moreover I’ve done no significant exercise for about a month, and I’ve eaten my fair share (and then some) of Christmas treats, and Mr T is off today so out we went to do this walk.

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The book was published in 1986 and much has changed in 27 years but it’s so delightfully illustrated i really wanted to use it. However past experience warned me that I needed a map in addition.

It was a glorious walk but muddy in the extreme: wonderful views of the marsh and some challenging terrain.

This was taken from the top near Lympne Castle.

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And this is looking back up.

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But inbetween this happened.
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Just as we met the only other intrepid walkers of that day who were warning us of treacherous mud further down. They saw me fall flat. John waited till we were almost at the canal before he toppled. Neatly and discreetly. (I laughed anyway.)
Not the most attractive of photos I realise, and I did intend to go to Sainsburys afterwards…
But despite the humiliation and the bruises it was worth it just to be out there. Milky coffee from a flask and Christmas cake at the top. More turkey and ham pie at home. What’s not to like? Aren’t we lucky?
I might need a new map.
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Phew

Well, it’s over. All the thinking, planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, unwrapping, eating, more eating and drinking and clearing up. It’s all pretty much done with, and all our guests bar one, Bertie-blackcat, have left.

It went well. We were a large group on Christmas day, nine plus one baby, one toddler, two lively dogs and Bertie-blackcat, who held his ground despite terrier provocation.

What helped?

I created a Facebook group where I posted suggestions for a menu and a secret Santa. Instead of everyone buying for everyone and it being stressy and somewhat pointless we each contributed a short list of things we’d like and we all then received something we wanted. 🙂 In my case a hyacinth in a jar and a small John Lewis watering can.

It came down to asking for what you want: basic assertiveness. You have a right to ask for what you want and equally others have the right to refuse you.

I was lucky. I had a cooperative group who played by the rules, but the principle applies. People don’t know what you want unless you ask. Don’t assume they do.

I could have provided all the food and drink and negotiated presents between every member but I didn’t. We all contributed and felt like adults.

What else worked? Masses of cooking beforehand. Including this:

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A Tunis cake, including chocolate ganache. Get me!

And this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mincemeatstreusel_73426 – much easier and more tasty than normal mince pies.

And the slut jelly things which went down very well in shot glasses.

And finally this:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/turkey-recipes/turkey-and-sweet-leek-pieIMG_3187

Yum. (I left out the chestnutty bit.)

So, a fair bit of self congratulation but I’ve still got a lot to learn. When I get old and start wearing purple and being much more difficult I am going to emulate William (18 months). If you offer him a biscuit he nods vigorously and says, “Two”. I plan to do that with gin.

If you give him something he doesn’t fancy or begin a song or a book he doesn’t want right now, he just comes out with it. “No”. With an o as in ‘orange’. Very clear.

If it’s food like a sandwich, he either palms it off or just takes it and drops it immediately. “No”

No games. No ambiguities and very funny for Granny. Not great for mum and dad who have got to establish routine and discipline.

This was still funny but probably because he was leaving in the next five minutes;

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Where did those beans come from?

Guest post from Mr T

It wasn’t just me:

Being like William

What’s it like to see people on horses for the first time, to be on a windy hill and see cows scattered throughout for the first time?

Picking up pebbles and examining each one large or very, very small as if for the first time.  Stamping in puddles, moving from one to the next and splashing in each one as if it was the first one.

Spending an hour on Firle Beacon not managing to be more than a five minute walk from the car because there are so many pebbles to pick up, puddles to splash in and a lot of grass to pluck and watch the wind carry away, while we the oldies also watch the grass and sense his future before him.

Bliss

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young was very heaven.”

But alas I am no longer young. Sunrise lights up chin hair vibrant with life, glistening with promise.

One quick snip and those telltale whiskers are gone. For now.

Note to self, make an appointment for wax/thread/electrolysis in New Year.

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This was the view form our hotel window last Friday. It overlooked the golf course and the grass was crisp with frost.

I could have stayed and watched it melt for many minutes but I didn’t, I ate a tepid hot breakfast and went to look after William.

I’ll not bore you with the detail, but it was the first rainfree day for about a month we took him to the top of Firle Beacon and intended to go for a walk. He had other plans.

Begin by identifying every living creature in sight.

Moo. Baa. Clip clop noise. Caw.

Move onto inanimate stuff. Brrm.

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Test wellies in every puddle. Turn over stones large and small. Poke sticks in to mud. Stroke grass with cold bare hands. Try to climb the wire fence despite Granny pointing out the sharp hurty bits. Allow yourself to be lured away with snaffled hotel biscuits.

IMG_3141We were up there for an hour and didn’t leave the car park.  It was a particularly well placed car park for spectacle, but his absorption in each and every detail was contagious. It was all there for him but he didn’t possess it. And Time, that familiar tyrant, became irrelevant. We left because his trousers were drenched. The wellies held up though.

Back to Wordsworth. His was the quote at the top. He didn’t just do daffodils.

Another favourite poem – this came on the Camino with me.

The World Is Too Much With Us

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174833

I have so much to learn and unlearn.

But he’s a patient teacher.

Dessert, pudding or just afters.

You know you’ve got a lot of time on your hands when you start doing online quizzes. I never fare very well in the “How many of these places have you been to/ films watched/ books read?” type quiz, but this one was made for me.

http://www.listchallenges.com/great-british-puddings?ref=share

A list of puddings / cakes follows. I did reeeally well. 33/40, though I have to admit most of them I ate while under 16 and at school. Happy memory. After a shaky start – I was not a great feeder pre teen – my appetite took off with the help of lunchtime netball and hockey practice at secondary school. I used to race in with my friend Susan and while I didn’t much like the first course, the meat often fatty and stringy, potatoes grey and lumpy, and the gravy was grim, I would demolish several servings of pudding. ( At that age only your mum makes decent gravy and her stew or roasties are unparalleled.) We once had sevenths of treacle pudding and custard. Plain greed but I worked it all off walking to and from school and lots of PE.

These days I rarely make puddings except when people come to dinner because I would just eat them. Mr Thompsononthehill doesn’t really do pud so it would fall to me to oblige. I could do this, though the seventh portion might defeat me. But in the interests of health and my waistline I refrain and we have yoghurt, fruit, and cake, sometimes. Very wholesome.

My repertoire is limited – there’s less margin for error with sweet stuff than savoury and a failure in the cake department is humiliating -so I’ve stuck to crumbles and sticky toffee pudding and artful constructions of shop bought meringue and cream and home grown soft fruit. But recently, down to the Bake Off effect, I have tried to extend my range. I made lemon and polenta cake and I’ve made passion fruit curd (pricey but delicious)  and filled a Victoria sponge with it and mascarpone cheese. It turned something rather dull and vicarage tea party-ish into a proper dessert. Note the transformation of that part of the meal in to dessert. When we were at school we called the midday meal, dinner.

“Are you pack lunches or dinners?”

An early version of the sorting hat for creating  friendship. And after the first course there was afters. Of course. What else?

These days dinner is in the evening, and I am a lady who lunches. It may be a cheese and  onion pasty from Greggs, that was Monday – not much cheese, lots of potato and a thick slice of onion in the centre which kept me company all afternoon. Tuesday was pulled pork in a bap with bbq sauce and bacon and cheese on top (excessive I know but it was freezing out and I was in Margate and had been looking at a bewildering collection of objects at the Turner Contemporary. The cafe was the appropriately named Fat Pig.

Wednesday was a Twirl from the Co op. I can’t remember why but rest assured I made up for it later.

Thursday, some homemade spiced carrot and lentil soup. Yum. Very easy, very healthy, and cheap. Full marks Mrs T.

Anyhow back to dessert. Much as I love eating them, I don’t relish making them. And Christmas looms with visions of steaming puddings which the family don’t much like nor have room for after the turkey, so I asked my cooking guru friend Sue and she told me about this which is what she serves as an alternative:

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/slut-red-raspberries-in-chardonnay-jelly-208

Great name Nigella, but gelatin??

I have been under the impression for forty years that working with gelatine is like handling dynamite. Fraught with difficulty and danger. It may have been beginner’s luck but it worked and indeed was easy. The demystification of gelatine. ( How many more things have I not tried because I believed I couldn’t do them? Plenty of blog material there.)

I served this to bookgroup and they loved it. Admittedly I did feel extravagant pouring a whole bottle of Chardonnay in a pan and gave a thought to my grandparents who will be turning in their graves – they who never did more than sip a sweet sherry. So roll on Christmas catering, and many more gelatine based desserts. Panacotta maybe or that brain thing which looked so unappealing but might taste nice.Great British Bake Off 2013: best bits (© BBC)

Maybe not.